How long do you expect to live? If you are like many Americans, there’s a good chance your estimate will not conform to the actual reality, according to new research.

A survey of more than 3,500 U.S. adults found that a majority of them — 53% — either did not know or underestimated the typical life expectancy of Americans who are 60 years old.

For the record, the life expectancy of a person at 60 years old is about:

  • 25 years — to age 85 — for females
  • 22 years — to age 82 — for males

The findings come from an annual survey known as the Personal Finance Index created by the TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington University. The latest edition was the first that included a question about longevity.

Despite it being a multiple-choice question, just 37% of respondents knew the correct life expectancy for their sex. By contrast, 25% underestimated life expectancy and 10% overestimated it. The other 28% selected the answer “don’t know.”

While ignorance about life expectancy might seem trivial, it can have major consequences. Those who fail to grasp how long they might live likely also underestimate how long their retirement will last.

In turn, that might mean they save less for retirement than they will need. In a summary of the researchers’ findings, Surya Kolluri, head of the TIAA Institute, says:

“If you don’t have a realistic understanding of how long you are likely going to live, you are missing one of the most foundational components of any plan: a time horizon. If we can improve people’s longevity literacy, we can help create better retirement plans and increase their confidence.”

Improving your financial literacy

Interestingly, the survey found that 43% of the women polled have a strong sense of “longevity literacy,” meaning they better grasp how long people are likely to live. That compares with just 32% of men.

However, the researchers note that men as a whole have higher levels of financial literacy than women.

Regardless of whether you are male or female, one way to improve your financial literacy is to enroll in the Money Talks News course Money Made Simple.

MTN founder Stacy Johnson offers 14 weeks of lessons on money basics in the course. You will learn how to improve your financial life in all the following areas:

  • Budgeting
  • Banking
  • Credit
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Investing
  • Real estate
  • Estate planning

After finishing these lessons, you will be ready to manage money more efficiently while spending less time getting the results you want. As Stacy writes:

“Whatever your situation, understanding and learning to control your money is going to improve your life. If you’re rich, you want to stay that way. If you’re not, you want to get that way.”

Chris Kissell

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